How do you determine whether or not an adult film is successful?
Do you look at objective measurements like raw sales receipts, awards won, or technical merit? Do you place precedent on more subjective arguments like star power or the strength of individual scenes? Or is it a combination of everything?
Not too long ago on this blog you may have caught the entry about Debbie Does Dallas, which, it could be said, is perhaps the most well-known and endearing porn flick ever created. At the time, we used the term “arguably” for a few reasons. First, there are other classics that have endured decades of scrutiny and have burrowed themselves firmly and comfortably into adult film lore. Second, there are too many variables to use the term “best”. Third, when you use equivocation within the context of a discussion you’re less likely to be called an idiot or a moron by readers because you have left the door open for debate instead of declaring yourself the expert.
Having said that, there are many inside and outside the industry who would suggest that The Opening of Misty Beethoven is without question the best adult film ever put to celluloid. The reasoning behind the thinking is that the movie satisfies nearly all the objective and subjective reasons laid out above. But is it an airtight case?
Before you answer that, let’s look at a Hollywood comparison between two films. The first film has one of the hottest names in film as the lead character. The other does not. The first film is rooted historical fact. The other is not. The first film has lush green film sets shot on-location, elaborate costuming, and loads of choreographed scenes . The other does not. The first film won 5 Oscars. The other won zero. So, does that mean the first film, Braveheart, is better than Kung-Fu Panda? Well, not if you were to look at the box office rankings. Braveheart is ranked 411th all time and Kung-Fu Panda 48th. But even those rankings would hold little sway if you hate Scottish heroes more than animated, ursine martial artists or vice-versa. It really comes down to what you like.
The case for TOOMB being the greatest of all-time goes like this:
Awards: Jamie Gillis won for Best Actor, Henry Paris (Radley Metzger) won for Best Director, and the film took home the Best Film award from the Adult Film Association of America. It took home the 2002 AVN Award for Best Classic DVD. And it is one of the first films to be inducted into the XRCO Hall of Fame.
Technical Merit: Cinematographer Robert Rochester took home an Oscar the following year for a documentary.
Star Power: Jamie Gillis, Gloria Leonard and director Radley Metzger comprise a strong cast and crew.
Strength of Scenes: The film stands as the earliest, widely distributed adult film to have a male character get “pegged” or take it up the ass via a strap-on. Add to that a strong plot based loosely on George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, competent acting skills and comedic timing, and it makes for great entertainment. Below are a few of the funnier exchanges.
Misty: “Men stink.”
Dr. Love: “They think you stink. In fact, it’s one of the most perfectly balanced equations in nature.”
Dr. Love: “Most women stop sucking at the moment of orgasm. That, however, is when the real woman just begins to suck.”
Misty: “What’s the biggest difference between New York and Rome?”
Dr. Love: “There aren’t as many Italians in Rome.”
Dr. Love: “You know why people have unsatisfactory sexual relations?”
Dr. Love: “They talk too goddam much.”
But can you honestly say that makes it the best? Probably not. Can you say it ranks it right up there among the best? Absolutely.
What can’t be argued is the plotline. Dr. Seymour Love (Jamie Gillis) is in search of the next Golden Rod Girl, the invention of one Lawrence Layman (Ras Kean). According to Dr. Love, the award is “unlike Cunt of the Year or Ballbreaker of the Century, because she is chosen informally and spontaneously.”
After he meets a lowly trick-turning whore named Misty in a porn theater, he wagers with his gal pal Geraldine (Jacqueline Beudant) that he can reform her into the most splendid sexual creature the world has ever laid eyes on, but she must “learn to develop in herself the instinct to convert a trivial act, a mundane routine, a daily chore into something stimulating, creative and above all communicative.”
The film proceeds through a musical montage of Misty’s training sessions, the highs, the lows, the inevitable growth of her ability as a sexpot. She practices her blowjobs on plaster penis molds and takes repeated cumshots to the face as part of her learning curve. It very much resembles a XXX intro to The Wonder Years or something like that.
Her skills are then put to the test in real life situations. First, she puts the moves on a wealthy socialite named Alfredo Spontini at the ballet. His impetuousness leads to a rather funny sequence. Then, she balls an impotent man, named so because he is gay. In seducing him, her legend grows to the delight of Dr. Love. Rumors and stories begin to surface among the townfolk and they begin to filter up to Lawrence Layman himself. Her ultimate validation comes at a socialite party where Misty demands to see Layman in person. Misty, Layman and his wife Barbara (Gloria Leonard) share in a hot threesome where the pegging mentioned above takes place. It’s a totally over-the-top scene.
Through it all, Dr. Love has fallen for Misty, but he has now created a monster. Monsters are good at one thing and one thing only: destruction. We won’t reveal the ending, but there is a major twist that you’ll just have to see.
Let the debate rage on about what classic film is the absolute best. Whatever criteria you use, this one ranks among the all-timers. It set the bar so high that few have ever come close to matching it in all aspects. If you have not seen this one, it’s high time you did so.
Stars: Constance Money Gary Wright Gayle Schafer Ras Kean David Chase Jacqueline Beudant Helene Simone Grover Griffith Mark Margolis Ian Morley Michael Ronds John Christopher Jamie Gillis Gloria Leonard Casey Donovan Michael Gaunt Terri Hall Marlene Willoughby Mary Stuart Crystal Sync Nancy Dare Cynthia Gardner Peter Andrews Jenny Baxter
Running Time: 85 minutes
Studio Name: VCA